North America Dominates Global LTE Subscriptions

By Jessica Binns, Contributing Editor — May 18, 2012

ABI Research says global LTE subscriptions should exceed 40 million by the end of 2012, a fourfold increase over the 9 million subscriptions last year. The wide range of expected LTE smartphone launches in 2012 from major OEMs such as Nokia, Samsung, and Apple, as well as the surge in data consumption, are the main causes behind the rise in LTE subscriptions.

Currently, the North American region accounts for 60% of total LTE subscriptions, followed by the Asia-Pacific region at 37%. However, Asia-Pacific LTE subscriptions are expected to overtake North America by 2014, primarily driven by adoption in China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

"South Korea and Japan are witnessing amazing LTE subscription growth due to the availability of high-quality content, enabling the countries to be the next largest LTE markets after the US," says research associate Ying Kang Tan. "Having LTE data plans priced on par with 3G data plans were a major factor that accelerated the migration over to LTE."

The Asia-Pacific will also be the main growth engine for TD-LTE. Global TD-LTE subscription numbers will grow from one million subscriptions at the end of 2012 to 139 million subscriptions by 2017. China, India, and Japan are collectively forecasted to account for 92 million TD-LTE subscriptions.

"However, spectrum fragmentation still remains the main obstacle preventing LTE subscribership in the Asia-Pacific region to go full throttle," says mobile services practice director Dan Shey. "With LTE deployed in more than five spectrum bands, it creates additional costs for handset OEMs to develop an LTE smartphone for every band."

ABI Research's "Mobile Subscriber Market Data, Global" is part of a quarterly market data series that tracks key worldwide subscription trends by quarter, by operator, for 120 markets. The research is also presented by other regional levels and segmentation into various technology standards.

These databases form part of ABI Research's Mobile Operator Strategies Research Service.

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